Interview: Emily Siegel of FETE
YOUR LOVE FOR FASHION STARTED EARLY, WITH YOUR FIRST INTERNSHIP FOR NEIMAN MARCUS AT AGE 16. TELL ME A LITTLE ABOUT THAT TIME IN YOUR LIFE.
“I never outgrew playing dress up. It’s funny, I got that job (with Neiman Marcus) because I was always in the store looking at pretty things, and they loved that I dressed up every day. Legally they weren’t allowed to hire me since I was under 18 – but they had already offered me the job. My first paycheck, I splurged on this amazing Fendi belt with my employee discount. I felt so cool!
In high school, dressing up was a healthy outlet for me. I dressed up my uniform to make it my own – and was always getting detention for it. A lot of the girls gave me a hard time, and I went to an all-girls school so it got pretty catty. I am a firm believer in dressing for success – you can be anyone, all it takes is dressing the part! Around the same time, I participated in a student-run fashion show called PUNCH that benefits Suited For Change, an organization that helps women in tough situations get dressed for job interviews so they can better their lives. That’s when I realized “I could really help someone with this!”
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
“I grew up all over. I was born in San Francisco and went to most of high school in a suburb of Washington DC, but Los Angeles has always felt like home.”
TELL ME ABOUT MOVING TO LOS ANGELES. HOW OLD WERE YOU?
“I moved here when I turned 18 to attend USC. I spent a lot of time here in high school. I call it Love Angeles, it’s my Shangri-La. There’s something so magical about the canyons and the smog, and we have the most amazing sunsets here. The weather is always perfect, but I wish it rained more. Girls wear fur coats when it’s sixty-five degrees, it’s hilarious.”
TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY EXPERIENCES WORKING IN LOS ANGELES.
“Here in LA, I interned for a couple stylists, brands, and e-commerce sites. I once interned for a stylist who was notorious for stealing…on my first day, every return I made, there were clothes and shoes missing. I quit when I came back to the office at the end of the day! It’s crazy what some people will try to get away with (in this business). Ultimately, nothing felt right until I started interning for Wildfox. I think it’s really easy to find an internship or job, but it’s hard to find the right people to learn from. It’s hard work, it’s not glamorous at all – that’s something people don’t really expect. I’m in this industry because I want to help women feel confident and beautiful – not because I like clothes or parties or popularity. It’s hard to find people on that same wavelength.”
YOU LEFT SCHOOL TO WORK FOR WILDFOX, AFTER THEY BUMPED YOU UP FROM INTERN TO STAFFER. WAS IT SCARY TO MAKE THE JUMP? WHAT AGE?
“I was too excited to be scared. I had just turned 21 and was so happy to finally leave school and do something I truly wanted and loved. I never fit in at school, it just didn’t feel right for me personally. For the first time in my life, I got to wake up and dream every day with these amazing, strong, creative women. I’m so thankful for everything I learned there, every opportunity the Wildfox girls gave me. They are really special, strong women."
EMILY, TELL ME ABOUT LAUNCHING YOUR BRAND, FETE. HOW MANY SEASONS HAVE YOU DESIGNED?
“It was definitely the boldest thing I’ve ever done. Something I always saw myself doing… but I had no idea it would happen this soon. Everything just sort of fell into place and I finally chose to trust myself and go for it. I’ve designed two Spring/Summer collections and am working on Fall/Winter right now.”
WHO IS YOUR GIRL? WHAT ABOUT HER INSPIRES YOU?
“She’s got stars in her eyes, love in her heart, and flowers in her hair. She believes in herself, that she can make anything happen. She creates her own path and trusts her heart. Sometimes I have no idea what the hell I’m doing, and that’s okay. I don’t know if we every really know what we are doing or if we just get better at pretending. When I get down on myself or am having a tough day and don’t know where to turn, I channel the fete girl. She helps me trust myself, trust the universe, and find creative ways to solve problems. She reminds me to listen to my heart, instead of getting caught up in what I ‘should’ do, to do the unexpected and make the world a more beautiful place, and to look & feel great doing it!”
TELL ME A BIT ABOUT EXPERIENCE WITH SOCIAL MEDIA – YOUR BRAND IS BELOVED ONLINE!
“My boyfriend is really into tech and the Internet, so I’ve learned a lot from him. A few years ago, I started building a following and really learning about social media. It all boils down to psychology and making people feel good! It’s important to me that I send a positive message. You can really brighten someone’s day with a beautiful image, let someone escape for a few seconds and daydream. When you curate beautiful content that inspires people in such an immediate, sharable channel, you can make their daily life more beautiful! And that’s what I hope to do, to inspire people to see the beauty in the world – and let’s be real, most of us are constantly staring at our phones.”
HAVE YOU EVER DESIGNED A CUSTOM LOOK?
“A few months ago I designed a variation of the ballerina skirt from our first collection for a girl’s wedding dress. That was special for me. I love working one on one with someone to help manifest their vision. Ultimately, I design with the “custom” idea in mind – I create each piece so that a woman can wear it multiple different ways and for any occasion.”
WHO HAVE YOU LEARNED THE MOST FROM IN YOUR CAREER THUS FAR? ANY MENTORS?
“I learned just about everything from the Wildfox girls, especially Kim. You wouldn’t believe the technical stuff that goes on behind the scenes, and the only way to learn is to jump in and do it. I’ve also learned a lot from myself. There are some things you just have to navigate on your own to really understand, you have to be perseverant and believe in yourself no matter what. Some lessons you can only learn by making mistakes!”
WHATS BEEN THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR BUSINESS?
“Seeing girls wearing my clothes, looking so beautiful and happy! I just love getting emails with photos of girls in our stuff. On our Instagram, when I post an inspiring message and someone says, ‘Thank you, I needed this...” I’m like YES! I did my job! This is what I came to this earth to do – help women feel confident and make the world a more beautiful place.”
WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES THAT YOU FACE IN YOUR BUSINESS? HAVE THOSE CHALLENGES CHANGED IN THE PAST YEAR, TWO YEARS?
“It’s really hard when you’re first starting out, everything from logistical business stuff that I have no background in, to finding the right production people and factories, and sourcing. It’s hard to know who to trust or who to pay and all that. Spending money can be scary. There’s so much work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s funny because people think fashion is so glamorous, but really it’s hard work. An average day last year would feature me running around the fashion district in 90 degrees, carrying bags of fabric and patterns, in heels, trying not to step on street hot dog onions! Now I have an actual office, and am starting to get in the groove of things with the right team. As you get smarter business-wise, you realize how much money and stress and time you’ve wasted and it can be a huge bummer. I try to be thankful for those mistakes because they teach me way more than when I get something right the first time.
Every day is a new challenge, as your company grows, you grow. Yesterday’s challenge feels like a cake walk, and today’s feels like it’s the end of the world, but you just keep going and growing and getting stronger. It’s all a learning experience.”
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU AS A DESIGNER?
“I came to this planet to help women. My way of doing that is through clothing, helping them feel confident and beautiful. I want to make this earth a more beautiful place. It’s important to me that I design pieces that are convertible; that can be worn different ways, dressed up or down. She can be a whole new woman every day, all depending on what she wears. A woman needs options! That doesn’t mean she needs to buy more – she just needs to buy smarter.
I want to make pieces that a woman will keep in her closet forever, hand down to her daughter… that means designing classic, stylish pieces that will always be relevant. I hope that every piece I design is that one, absolute favorite thing in a woman’s closet.”